Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is Suitepotato a convert or is he in process of converting or what?

This question is a good one Chaim. It gives me an excuse to blog. Like I need one. :)

The beginning:
I was born to if not good observant then at least passingly caring Catholic parents. They weren't bad people. A little self-absorbed with their own pains I suppose. Knowing now how they were raised by my largely now late grandparents, I am sometimes surprised they didn't become ardent atheists. Stand up, sit down, kneel, cross this way, cross that way, yes we're attending a Catholic chuch but be nice and smile like someone suffering fools gladly for your Baptist minister uncle. G-d says no meat on Friday, okay, Vatican II says G-d was kidding, what, you want to know if Jesus was the messiah for his sake or G-d's? We're awaiting another Lateran Council for clarification. Okay, pray in Latin. Just kidding, back to English. Make nice with the guitar playing nun and don't tick her off, she's on the diocese softball team and that guitar makes a real big bat.

It was into this confusing allegedly Christian world I popped. Almost as if a foretelling of my future I was circumcised right away. It was already being phased out back then and there's no big emphasis on the so-called Old Testament in Catholicism except where it serves to make the priest de jure think you're listening just a little bit more than five seconds before he mentioned G-d turning people into salt. Snipping any part of your anatomy is not something Catholics spend any time on, nor should they. I'm not comfortable with anyone's spending too much time on my anatomy. Good thing brit milah is as quick as possible or in my case to be hatafat dam brit.

As an aside, if you dare to visit stilemedia.com and cycle through the self-destruction visualized therein, you might come across things even more disturbing to do to your genitalia there. Also, you might need medical help to get your eyelids to close properly again as they'll have gone so wide, your eyes might fall out. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Downright unholy stuff there. I've seen it so thank you G-d it's just a little sterilized needle prick and over with, like taking your blood sugar test.


Onward through the years I went in the church not particularly getting anything spiritual out of it. Sit down, stand up, kneel. Catholic Calisthenics every Sunday, facetious quibbling over Friday's choice of main dinner component when pizza or McDonald's was more likely, more evasion of the usual questions children ask when they smell b.s. in the water.

"We execute murderers and other criminals?"

"Sometimes."

"Did Jews execute other criminals?"

"Not since they were in charge of their own nation. The Romans executed people."

"So Jesus wasn't killed by Jews."

"Er..."

"Wasn't Jesus a Jew?"

"Yeah..."

"So the Romans executed Jesus?"

"I guess so... Go outside and play."

I'd look up at the cross in church, wondering if that five hundred pound wood and plaster kitsch would fall on someone, and get nervous with fright whenever the priest stood directly under it. G-d was supposed to be a real hellish deity, able to outdo Satan for sheer audacity. The devil would only seduce people to bad things. G-d would create them one minutes and drown them in flood the next. Even the devil never got to throw death around in that big a way. G-d made hurricanes which were more powerful than atomic bombs according to science class. Satan made... what?

G-d never did anything with that cross. It hung there all the while the priest went on in the manner of what would later be somewhat satirized by Eddie Izzard except that he was using it to poke at the Church of England. It might as well have been about hair and fashion magazines. It ran together like mush and as I got older and paid more attention it contradicted itself.

This of course is not good. Contradiction is to gentile kids what the Internet is to some Charedi men. A real neck snapping double-taking whoa there horsey moment. I had my crisis of faith start at Sunday school which for those so Jewish they never learned a thing about Christians other than the holiday sales, was sort of like a fat-free sugar-free ultra-light version of what my wife still refers to as "Hebrew School" which was in actuality little more than a far too late and too little touch-up in a hurry before her bat mitzvah.

We were supposed to cover all the minutae that couldn't fit into a sermon or the usual repetition of prayers held out before us like a superstitious attempt at warding off woodchucks from the garden with old folk-tale mixtures of urine and other things... and about as effective. Bad things still happened to good people. Kids I knew were still crying themselves to sleep hungry, as I did many times. Parents slept around on each other. Divorce was rampant. Drugs were everywhere. Yet somehow the world was firmly held to work a principle of bad stuff only happens to bad people. Therefore, if you are pained, you've been bad.

Little old Italian Catholic grandmothers could go toe to toe in a guilt olympics with any Jewish grandmother. G-d sees what you're doing, He knows you're even thinking about back-talk, and He's already getting your punishment ready... Now go do what I tell you and turn the heater up and then go rake the lawn, and then put the leaves on the mulch pile, and then get the mower. Don't complain. It's G-d's will you respect your elders... No matter how much they milked it.

Like I said, b.s. in the water. What did I do? When did I do something to deserve going hungry? What did I do to deserve it? What in the name of G-d could I possibly have done? I was seven for crying out loud! I'm not this Hitler person the teachers go on about. I'm just seven!

The following year Jim Jones crept out of the shadows and onto the television. I wasn't him either. I was just eight.

It only got worse. The idea was put to me and no argument accepted, G-d punishes people so they must deserve whatever bad happens. My father cheated on my mom. My mom decided that the whole Christ-preached forgiveness thing wasn't for her and filed for a divorce almost the same day. What did I do to make my dad move away? What did I do to make my mom mad at my dad? I talked, pretty much screamed at Jesus Christ and G-d. WHY???!!!

Never did hear anything back. Maybe I was screaming in pain too much to hear Him.

I tried reading the bible cover to cover. Started with the old testament and saw just more of the idea that G-d was a pretty persnickety deity. Seemed to have a thing for some guy that they must have named Lincoln after and all his kids. There was the whole bit about the boat and all the animals, which they endlessly use for kids' books religious or not because kids like animals and boats. Noah had both? Can't miss! They were light on the whole sinful world part though. I wondered if all the people who drowned did so because they were busy doing drugs, sleeping around, and too heavy with gold chains on their necks to swim. You know the part that I'm talking about? Imagine the sights of Studio 54 being your model for the imagery.

It went on endlessly it seemed about some people called Jews that Jesus came from who seemed to get the crap kicked out of them for no apparent reason on a way too regular basis like G-d was messing with them. I could feel for them. I got the crap kicked out of me at school for no reason on a regular basis.

After a while, I fell away from my attempt somewhere just before the death of Jesus. I already had that one special delivered in Sunday school. It was their whole central schtick. They went to great lengths to infer without saying it that Jews killed Jesus while downplaying that Jesus was a Jew though they didn't spare the mentions when it came to the Romans. Then we were one big happy family, us versus those guys with the scrub brushes on their silly helmets.

Well anyhow, G-d wasn't anywhere in there. He didn't talk to me when I read any of it.

So I looked elsewhere for G-d. I stopped going to church and Sunday school simply by waiting till my mother was least able to spend time on fighting with me over it. Either argue, or get the groceries, laundry, and part-time job done. Pick on or the other, you can't have both.

My mom meanwhile was having her own crisis of faith which led her to the church of arts and crafts before bringing her around to born-again Christianity which was a whole other world of say one thing about G-d then demonstrate another pain and misery.

Which is where the next post will take up...


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